Published: February 28th 2011August 7th 2010
Saturday, 7th August
Just a seven hour bus to the border today. Our hostel for the first time has a pool which we most obviously abused. I swear to God I saw Pete Townsend too. Turned out when he spoke that he was actually Pierre Villesend. It's okay I haven't told anyone.
Today's gripe is with how noisy Asians eat. Sitting next to them is like being punched in the ear by a man made of garbage who squelches when he moves. I've been assaulted. It's a train wreck to look at as well, they don't open their mouths just for chewing but for speaking whilst chewing. Yuck. The whole situation is amplified when no-one else is eating, say when I'm having a quiet beer writing my diary. Sunday, 8th August
We came to Chiang Khong to catch the 2 day slow boat to Luang Prabang in Laos. Therefore first order of the day was to pass through customs. Since we were clued up enough to get our visa in advance we got to pay an extra $15 on what we could have by just turning up. Still, it got us through quicker than everyone else. But then we
had to wait for them after anyway because buses here don't leave on time they leave when full. Hmmm good system. Still, the experience was a big 'f**k you' to the US and Canada. But then who wants to bomb Laos and destroy its traditions? (more on that August 13th - irony).
Our journey prior to the slow boat - bus, boat, ferry, bus, long walk. I'd say we were getting our money's worth if the ticket didn't grossly undercut the price at the hostel we shelled out for. The boat today takes a 7 hour trip to the halfway point of Pak Beng, going down the Mekong at a leisurely pace. The boat is long and slender with a 100 seats. The benches are really close to each other, kind of like sitting in a football stadium but watching four games back to back. And with nowhere else to go. A consistent theme of Thai production that lesser used word; 'rickety'. As the boat slowly deviates from a straight line it feels like it will fall apart. People sitting on the outside of the boat made it rock so hard that they had to be asked to sit
Rock the boat...
don't rock the baby
on their knee cramping benches. One time I lifted a cheek to expel gas and the whole thing nearly tipped over.
The view from the boat is mostly green forests in the hills. The river is like a valley between them so whilst beautiful became a bit of a killer after 7 hours. We were regularly passed by speedboats, an option we could have taken except for their reputation as absolute death traps (what over here isn't?) and the smoke is so bad that you will actually die of carbon monoxide poisoning before you arrive. The river is absolutely filthy. It looks thick. Kind of like a brown yoghurt. Laos is known for most of its tubing, kayaking and rafting. And its pink eye. Again more of that later.
Little kids were peddling products all the way. Quite shocking to see but works. Too cute to say not to. Heaven knows they must rely on the honesty of tourists to give them the right money.
At the Bounmee Guesthouse I ate Buffalo for dinner. New animal #6. Monday, 9th August
Want to know about the day 2 experience of the slow boat? Read yesterday. And add
2 more hours. The only thing was that at one of our thousand stops to pick up or drop up some of the locals there were loads of naked kids swimming. Nothing in itself but for the ton of people photographing it. Not that these kids will ever see themselves on the internet sites that should be closed down but aren't because of some bullsh*t privacy laws, but still weird.
In Luang Prabang we found the Silichit Guesthouse, partly because of the funny name but partly because the room is huge and only costs about £4.80. There's no mosquito nets though which is a bit worrying although the judgement of the owners in these things is usually pretty sound.
Our expectation of Laos is for a watered down Thailand. The language is really similar and we all know they look alike over here (ooo racist), the main differences if any will come from the political history. Laos has had much more Communist leaning and therefore you would expect a certain lack of enterprise in the locals. This has of course ended (what Communist country hasn't?) and we're pleased to note that whilst everything is still available as it
was in Thailand we haven't got any pr*cks trying to hassle us or con us or touch us in strange places.
When you think about it - Laos combines Communism (share and share alike) with Buddhism (moving away from material possessions). Perhaps we can be thievery free for a whole two weeks? Keep reading to find out.
There are more photos below